The Blind Assassin

The Blind Assassin

by Margaret Atwood

Hardcover(Library Binding)

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From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Handmaid's Tale


In The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood weaves together strands of gothic suspense, romance, and science fiction into one utterly spellbinding narrative. The novel begins with the mysterious death—a possible suicide—of a young woman named Laura Chase in 1945. Decades later, Laura’s sister Iris recounts her memories of their childhood, and of the dramatic deaths that have punctuated their wealthy, eccentric family’s history. Intertwined with Iris’s account are chapters from the scandalous novel that made Laura famous, in which two illicit lovers amuse each other by spinning a tale of a blind killer on a distant planet. These richly layered stories-within-stories gradually illuminate the secrets that have long haunted the Chase family, coming together in a brilliant and astonishing final twist.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780613369398
Publisher: Turtleback Books: A Division of Sanval
Publication date: 08/28/2001
Pages: 521
Product dimensions: 6.14(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.22(d)

About the Author

Margaret Atwood, whose work has been published in thirty-five countries, is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. In addition to The Handmaid’s Tale, her novels include Cat’s Eye, short-listed for the 1989 Booker Prize; Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize; Oryx and Crake, short-listed for the 2003 Man Booker Prize; The Year of the Flood; and her most recent, MaddAddam. She is the recipient of the Los Angeles Times Innovator’s Award, and lives in Toronto with the writer Graeme Gibson.


Toronto, Ontario

Date of Birth:

November 18, 1939

Place of Birth:

Ottawa, Ontario


B.A., University of Toronto, 1961; M.A. Radcliffe, 1962; Ph.D., Harvard University, 1967

Read an Excerpt


The Bridge

Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge. The bridge was being repaired: she went right through the Danger sign. The car fell a hundred feet into the ravine, smashing through the treetops feathery with new leaves, then burst into flames and rolled down into the shallow creek at the bottom. Chunks of the bridge fell on top of it. Nothing much was left of her but charred smithereens.

I was informed of the accident by a policeman: the car was mine, and they'd traced the licence. His tone was respectful: no doubt he recognized Richard's name. He said the tires may have caught on a streetcar track or the brakes may have failed, but he also felt bound to inform me that two witnesses - a retired lawyer and a bank teller, dependable people - had claimed to have seen the whole thing. They'd said Laura had turned the car sharply and deliberately, and had plunged off the bridge with no more fuss than stepping off a curb. They'd noticed her hands on the wheel because of the white gloves she'd been wearing.

It wasn't the brakes, I thought. She had her reasons. Not that they were ever the same as anybody else's reasons. She was completely ruthless in that way.

"I suppose you want someone to identify her," I said. "I'll come down as soon as I can." I could hear the calmness of my own voice, as if from a distance. In reality I could barely get the words out; my mouth was numb, my entire face was rigid with pain. I felt as if I'd been to the dentist. I was furious with Laura for what she'd done, but also with the policeman for implying that she'd done it.A hot wind was blowing around my head, the strands of my hair lifting and swirling in it, like ink spilled in water.

"I'm afraid there will be an inquest, Mrs. Griffen," he said.;"Naturally," I said. "But it was an accident. My sister was never a good driver."

I could picture the smooth oval of Laura's face, her neatly pinned chignon, the dress she would have been wearing: a shirtwaist with a small rounded collar, in a sober colour - navy blue or steel grey or hospital-corridor green. Penitential colours - less like something she'd chosen to put on than like something she'd been locked up in. Her solemn half-smile; the amazed lift of her eyebrows, as if she were admiring the view.

The white gloves: a Pontius Pilate gesture. She was washing her hands of me. Of all of us. What had she been thinking of as the car sailed off the bridge, then hung suspended in the afternoon sunlight, glinting like a dragonfly for that one instant of held breath before the plummet? Of Alex, of Richard, of bad faith, of our father and his wreckage; of God, perhaps, and her fatal, triangular bargain. Or of the stack of cheap school exercise books that she must have hidden that very morning, in the bureau drawer where I kept my stockings, knowing I would be the one to Wnd them.

When the policeman had gone I went upstairs to change. To visit the morgue I would need gloves, and a hat with a veil. Something to cover the eyes. There might be reporters. I would have to call a taxi. Also I ought to warn Richard, at his office: he would wish to have a statement of grief prepared. I went into my dressing room: I would need black, and a handkerchief.

I opened the drawer, I saw the notebooks. I undid the crisscross of kitchen string that tied them together. I noticed that my teeth were chattering, and that I was cold all over. I must be in shock, I decided.

What I remembered then was Reenie, from when we were little. It was Reenie who'd done the bandaging, of scrapes and cuts and minor injuries: Mother might be resting, or doing good deeds elsewhere, but Reenie was always there. She'd scoop us up and sit us on the white enamel kitchen table, alongside the pie dough she was rolling out or the chicken she was cutting up or the fish she was gutting, and give us a lump of brown sugar to get us to close our mouths. Tell me where it hurts, she'd say. Stop howling. Just calm down and show me where.

But some people can't tell where it hurts. They can't calm down. They can't ever stop howling.

The TorontoStar, May 26, 1945

Questions Raised at the Death Special to the Star

A coroner's inquest has returned a verdict of accidental death in last week's St. Clair Ave. fatality. Miss Laura Chase, 25, was travelling west on the afternoon of May 18 when her car swerved through the barriers protecting a repair site on the bridge and crashed into the ravine below, catching Wre. Miss Chase was killed instantly. Her sister, Mrs. Richard E. GriVen, wife of the prominent manufacturer, gave evidence that Miss Chase suVered from severe headaches affecting her vision. In reply to questioning, she denied any possibility of intoxication as Miss Chase did not drink.

It was the police view that a tire caught in an exposed streetcar track was a contributing factor. Questions were raised as to the adequacy of safety precautions taken by the City, but after expert testimony by City engineer Gordon Perkins these were dismissed.

The accident has occasioned renewed protests over the state of the streetcar tracks on this stretch of roadway. Mr. Herb T. Jolliffe, representing local ratepayers, told Star reporters that this was not the Wrst mishap caused by neglected tracks. City Council should take note.

The Blind Assassin. By Laura Chase.Reingold, Jaynes & Moreau, New York, 1947

Prologue: Perennials for the Rock Garden

She has a single photograph of him. She tucked it into a brown envelope on which she'd written clippings, and hid the envelope between the pages of Perennials for the Rock Garden, where no one else would ever look.

She's preserved this photo carefully, because it's almost all she has left of him. It's black and white, taken by one of those boxy, cumbersome flash cameras from before the war, with their accordion-pleat nozzles and their well-made leather cases that looked like muzzles, with straps and intricate buckles. The photo is of the two of them together, her and this man, on a picnic. Picnic is written on the back, in pencil - not his name or hers, just picnic. She knows the names, she doesn't need to write them down.

They're sitting under a tree; it might have been an apple tree; she didn't notice the tree much at the time. She's wearing a white blouse with the sleeves rolled to the elbow and a wide skirt tucked around her knees. There must have been a breeze, because of the way the shirt is blowing up against her; or perhaps it wasn't blowing, perhaps it was clinging; perhaps it was hot. It was hot. Holding her hand over the picture, she can still feel the heat coming up from it, like the heat from a sun-warmed stone at midnight.

The man is wearing a light-coloured hat, angled down on his head and partially shading his face. His face appears to be more darkly tanned than hers. She's turned half towards him, and smiling, in a way she can't remember smiling at anyone since. She seems very young in the picture, too young, though she hadn't considered herself too young at the time. He's smiling too - the whiteness

Reading Group Guide

The introduction, discussion questions, author biography, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your reading group's discussion of Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin, winner of the Booker Prize and the International Association of Crime Writers Dashiell Hammett Award.

1. Laura and Iris spend their childhood in Avilion, "a merchant's palace," and, like princesses in a fairy tale, are virtually untouched by the outside world. What other elements reinforce the fairy-tale-like quality of their lives? What role does Alex Thomas play within this context? Does Iris's depiction of her life as an old woman also draw on the conventions of fairy tales?

2. How accurate is Iris's declaration, "Long ago I made a choice between classicism and romanticism. I prefer to be upright and contained—an urn in daylight" [p. 43]? How was this "choice" affected by the distinctions Iris and Laura's parents made between the two girls when they were children? What incidents show that Iris has ambiguous feelings about the roles she and Laura assume as children? What signs are there that Iris has a romantic side she keeps hidden from the adults? What cost does this exact?

3. Throughout her life, Laura is considered a special, unusual person, more sensitive than most. How does Laura exploit the impression she makes on other people? Are her motives and intentions always as innocent as people assume? Iris says, "[Laura's] cruelties were accidental— by-products of whatever lofty notions may have been going through her head" [p. 301]. How does the language Iris uses shed light on the complicated emotions Laura stirs up in her?

4. Regarding her father's role in arranging her marriage, Iris writes, "He was only doing what would have been considered—was considered, then—the responsible thing. He was doing the best he knew how" [p. 227]. In light of Norval's character and his previous treatment of Iris, is this explanation too facile? Was he motivated by reasons Iris doesn't allow herself to acknowledge?

5. Is Iris purely a pawn in a plan conceived by the men, or does she have reasons of her own for agreeing to marry Richard? In what ways does the marriage fulfill Iris's conception of herself and her approach to life?

6. Iris comes under the influence of three very different women in the course of the novel: Reenie, Callie Fitzsimmons, and Winifred Griffen Prior. How does each of these women affect Iris's view of herself—and of womanhood in general? How do their lives and attitudes represent the social environment and class structure of the times?

7. Several childhood experiences foreshadow Laura's ultimate fate, including her plunge into the river [p. 151] and her accusation that Mr. Erskine sexually molested her [p. 165]. What do these incidents indicate about Laura's personality? To what extent is she shaped by circumstances beyond her control?

8. Is Iris responsible for Laura's death? At what points could she have changed the course of events?

9. How do the newspaper articles advance the unfolding of the plot? Do they serve as an objective record of the events in the characters' lives?

10. How does the science fiction story constructed by the unnamed lovers mirror the story of the lovers themselves and the circumstances surrounding their affair? In what ways does it parallel events in Iris's life, both as a child and as an adult?

11. Atwood has said that the form of The Blind Assassin was influenced by early twentieth-century collages, in which newspaper excerpts were glued onto canvas and then painted around and over—thus framing two ways of representing reality, each of which contradicted the other but also complemented it. How many "kinds" of writing are in The Blind Assassin, washroom graffiti included? What purpose does each form of writing serve?

12. The era of the Great Depression was also an age of extreme fashion-consciousness among the wealthy. What role do clothes play in The Blind Assassin, in both the historical and the contemporary sections of the book? What do they reveal about the characters, and what do they conceal?

13. What are the various meanings of the title The Blind Assassin? Which characters act as blind assassins by uncomprehendingly causing the demise of other characters?

14. How do the multiple levels of The Blind Assassin interact with one another? Do they unfold in concert, shedding light on one another, or is the relationship among them only apparent at the end of the book? What does the use of this narrative technique reveal about Atwood's methods of storytelling?

15. If you have read other books by Atwood (particularly The Handmaid's Tale and Cat's Eye), how does The Blind Assassin echo and extend themes she has previously explored? What new themes are developed?

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The Blind Assassin 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 256 reviews.
Molinarolo More than 1 year ago
This book sat on my shelf for several months before I had the courage to read Atwood's best work. Blind Assassin is for the serious or the literary reader. And, very quickly we are thrown into a novel w/in the novel. The name? Blind Assassin written by Laura chase and published posthumously after her death in 1945 by her sister, Iris. Iris discovers: "Nothing is more difficult than to understand the dead, I've found; but nothing is more dangerous than to ignore them." Did Laura purposely drive off that bridge? Do Iris' relationships to her father, much older husband, Alex, and even to Laura die in that car as well. Which sister is Laura writing about in her novel? And whom is the male lover in Blind Assassin that tells fantastical Sci Fi stories. Are they actually parables lifted from Laura and Iris' life to explain or justify each girl's choices? Or they something else, still yet defining Laura and Iris? Atwood never yields to cynicism, or contempt for her characters. The result; a rich world of layered truths and lies of Laura and Iris. Atwood uses Iris to tell their story, define their relationships-all of them-to understand the dead and finally lay them to Rest in Peace. Thus Iris is revealed, and finally at peace with her life-warts and all, in the Autumn of her own life. This book deserves more stars than this rating and the time it takes to read this wonderful story. I was very dissapointed that I had come to the last word. This marvelous book is a gem of an addition to my book collection and hopefully to yours.
osaka More than 1 year ago
This book is so very different. It's got 3 stories going on all at once. It kept me wanting to find out what happens next. My first read by Margaret Atwood. This was excellent, I'll have to check out her other books.
swift__cat More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite books of all time. The mystery of the plot is revealed in the unraveling of the past as the main character transforms from a young girl floating through life to a strong woman in firm possession of her identity. This novel is about the heartache and culpability of our inaction when the things we are not strong enough to see or realize are suddenly as stark as the death of a loved one. The heroine is anything but perfect. She makes mistakes that ultimately lead to unhappiness but in owning up to them and fighting, the reader both forgives and admires her. This story is unique, fast paced and well-written. Even if the plot doesn't strike you as something you would be interested in, I recommend it for sheer literary value.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not having read one of Margaret Atwood's books before, I was not sure what to expect. What a rich and textured story awaited me. A novel within a novel within a mystery within a love story. Once I got the rhythm of the story, I was hooked.
khk-67 More than 1 year ago
What a wonderful surprise this book was to me. It was quite a feat by the author to weave so many types of writing into one novel. Historical fiction, prose, poetry and science fiction. Sometimes, I found it challenging to realize whose story was being told. This book had so many fascinating layers.
jsakbari More than 1 year ago
The Blind Assasin was a unique experience of alternating atmospheres, impeccible detail, and insightful perspective from the accounts of the main character, Iris, and her take on everyone, and everything, around her. From the blend of cynisism to the intermixed events of a capricic life, Iris' memoirs, which compose the story, are a force to be reckoned with. Her story is most notable in that it is definitely one with regret and revenge, and an undeniable thirst for change. Meanwhile, the task of unconvering the identity behind the mysterious man and woman in "The Blind Assasin" chapters leaves you speculating til the very end. I honestly can say I've never read anything like this before. Atwood's style and composition is anomalous, and utterly unmatchable. She brings a new flavor to the realms of the literary world, and has done justice in her experimentation with the conventional novel. Moreso than her style, the turn of events in Iris' story are most surprising; two suicides, marriage into a twisted family and the loss of one's true identity make this a heartfelt read. I was transplanted into the setting of each memory as it was being written down by Iris, and felt and saw every blinding detail, the prescence the type of man Richard was, and how supressed Iris felt; eye awakening to say the least. When she recounts her sister Laura, a whole other level of complexity and understanding is added to the novel--bringing her full, enigmatic, unconventional personality and its influence--to the story. Yet overall, the best part was not unconvering the mysterious identities and coming to the definitely unexpected conclustion so much as it was growing and empathyzing with each of the characters along the way. It unreal how many questions one's memories can evoke in a person, causing them to question their society and everyone around them. I would most definitely reccomend this book for anyone up for a twisted, enconventional journey of living vicariously through someone else, and anyone looking to be humored by the highly descriptive, sometimes nonsensical, abstract details and opinions of the Author via the main character of the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale' which I thought was a masterpiece, I was really looking forward to this one. I was greatly disappointed. I found the' novel within a novel' to be really just a gimic and unnecessary to move the story along. The 'mystery' wasn't much of one at all ( I figured it out early on in the book ). Atwood is still a great writer and I hope she rebounds from this effort. If you haven't read 'The Handmaid's Tale' do yourself a favor and read it. Now that was a great book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am on page 53 and I am bored to tears An old lady is just shuffling around in her bed-slippers Really disappointing so far
KimHeniadis More than 1 year ago
I know Margaret Atwood is well know, and some of her books, such as Cat’s Eye and The Handmaid’s Tale are very widely read. This is the first book that I read by her, and I wasn’t super impressed. Her writing of scenes and clothing was very well done. The imagery was wonderful, but what fell flat for me was the characters. I didn’t really connect with any of them. I guess it was a case of rich people problems. I don’t want to put in spoilers, but I will say that I knew who the mysterious lovers were, and the niece and what had happened to Laura to get her put into an institution way before the end. There was no big reveal for me. I did read it for book club and the others didn’t pick up on all the pieces, but some had picked up on more than others. And the Sci-Fiction story that was written inside the story had potential, but with no Chicago Style Editing, it felt like the author had a free pass to not really worry about proper writing. To me it was as if it was a first draft, and editing hadn’t taken place yet. Not to say it had spelling errors or timing issues, just no quotes for text, etc… I also couldn’t tell if the book inside the book was supposed to include all the interactions between the two lovers, or if we were just supposed to pick out the Sci-Fi story from it. I’m thinking it was everything, because later on this book gets published under Laura’s name, and there would need to be a lot more to make it into a complete novel. Then again sometimes novels can be short, so maybe it was just supposed to be the Sci-Fi parts. This book was over 500 pages, and I think Atwood could have chopped out at least 100 pages. It wasn’t a bad read, and now if anyone asks me if I read Margaret Atwood, I can say I have, but I would say read one of her other books instead.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
the book by margaret atwood is a splendid creation of fiction and the imagination that people can conjure up in their minds.........the book is relly an interesting book and teaches us alot of messages and advices that we can learn from...........................................
ILoveClassics More than 1 year ago
I thought that challenging reading was for school... the boring stuff. But Margaret Atwood's "The Blind Assassin" was a twisted, complex novel that features a story within a story that requires your undivided attention! The first line of the book is "On the day after the war ended, my sister drove her car off a bridge." That caught my attention for sure! The narrator, Iris Chase Griffen, narrates the story, telling the tale of her life currently, as well as recounting her early childhood and all of its trials. That's only 2 parts of the story to follow. The 3rd part, which is perhaps the hardest to grasp, is a story that the narrator's sister, Laura Chase (the one the first sentence refers to) has supposedly written before her early death and has been published posthumously by Iris called "The Blind Assassin". The 3 stories weave together in an intricately complex, but rewarding way. Every three or four chapters, the story will switch from Iris's narrative to "The Blind Assassin." Carefully attention is needed to see how small details relate between the two settings, because therein lies the beauty and uniqueness of this work of art. I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a challenge and is sick of the same ol' same ol' story. But make sure you are ready to think, think, think!
Borg-mx5 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"The Blind Assassin" is a long difficult book. It is often slow and ponderous. It has no happy ending. The book details the lives of two sisters, Iris and Laura Chase. Iris is the autobiographer and is the keeper of the family secrets. Her observations about her past, her sister and the cold hard fact that life is short and she is old do not make this a book for someone who wants to laugh or someone who requires their books to end with a happy ending. It is however, filled with sometimes exquisite writing. I became aware of Atwood when I read her most famous novel "The Handmaids tale". This novel lacks the tension of that epic, but nonetheless represents a higher style of writing. It is also this novels handicap. Few people will want to read such a challenging book, but if you are one of them, I would highly recommend this novel.
Niecierpek on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It¿s my favourite Atwood- two, or even perhaps three novels in one with a consciously deceiving design complete with the usual Atwoodian insights and themes.A great plot full of secrets (like the family it describes), and twists and turns.
TheBookJunky on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a reward. This book reaffirms my love of Atwood's writing. She is brilliant. Her writing is simultaneously dense, layered, and yet so easily accessible and enjoyable. Other good books will have writing that every few pages may make me stop and savour a particular phrase or sentence. This book is a tumbling consecutive series of wonderfully styled descriptions and ideas. To write down all those that capture my delight would be to record half the book.¿Farewells can be shattering but returns are surely worse. Solid flesh can never live up to the bright shadow cast by its absence. Time and distance blur the edges; then suddenly the beloved has arrived, and it¿s noon with its merciless light, and every spot and pore and wrinkle and bristle stands clear.¿ [p95, on the return home of a soldier.]****** "When you¿re young, you think everything you do is disposable. You move from now to now, crumpling time up in your hands, tossing it away. You¿re your own speeding car. You think you can get rid of things, and people too ¿ leave them behind. You don¿t yet know about the habit they have, of coming back." [P 499]
djmccord73 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is a towering masterpiece, for those who have the patience to watch it being built brick by brick.
Meggo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I know this is one of Canada's literary masterpieces, and a Booker Prize winning novel by Atwood, but I must confess that this book took me almost 2/3 of the way through to get into. I suspect it was the interweaving of the reminiscence told by the narrator, the book written by her sister, and the story-within-a-story in the book. Once I had some uninterrupted time to plow through the book, though, it captured my interest, and I found that some of the twists and turns I did not anticipate - or not entirely. If you can deal with the non-linear narrative, and enjoy Canadian fiction, I recommend this book.
fiverivers on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A simply brilliant novel, one of Atwood's best, and certainly deserving of the Booker.Comfortable with her skill as a writer, Atwood deftly alternates between sections written from different viewpoints and tenses, creating at first what seem to be disparate stories but which, of course, come together in a tense, sometimes humorous, often oppressive, and always insightful tale of relationships, love, betrayal and atonement.Certainly The Blind Assassin should be required reading for any adult.
PghDragonMan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I¿ve enjoyed the two previous Margaret Atwood books (The Hand Maid¿s Tale and Oryx and Crake) I¿ve read, and while unique, they were joined by a dystopian theme. In The Blind Assassin, Atwood branches into a different direction, not exactly trading dystopia for dysfunction, but something very close. There are at least three story lines woven together in this tale, all woven very tightly.The overlying story is one of a prosperous Canadian industrialist¿s family that falls on hard times during the depression era. This story is told from the perspective of a memoir of the last survivor of that family. Another story is a work of pulp fiction as told by the author of this story, themselves a work of fiction created by Atwood herself. The third aspect is the story of the decadence of the rich, the power hungry, those that believe themselves above all other codes of behavior.In the hands of someone less adept than Margaret Atwood, this would remain a disjointed effort at best. Under the author¿s hands, or rather pen, everything blends together into a seamless story of familial deception in the name of political power. In addition to the vivid characterizations, Atwood adds the flavor of slang and colloquialisms from the time periods she portrays. This adds a note of reality to the entire story I found most enjoyable.I don¿t want to reveal any of the plot, as there are lots of twists. If you study the characters as you get into the story, not all of the twists will be totally unexpected, yet they are not openly telegraphed as all too many authors do these days. You have to work at it to get ahead of the plot line.If the book has any faults, I did find it overly long in some parts. These occurred when Ms Atwood was mirroring the style of authors from previous generations. Perhaps there is a reason these styles are now out of favor. While there is ample material for a book club discussion, I did not find this as gripping as The Hand Maid¿s Tale or as thought provoking as Oryx and Crake. All the same, it is a more than a four star book, but maybe four and quarter stars would be a more accurate rating for this one.
wodfest on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've tried to read this one more than once but I've finally managed it. It was very good - I was more than 2/3rd through before I guessed the story twist. "Nicely hidden and well revealed" describes this book very well.
tulikangaroo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Beautiful. Three stories - present day, childhood in the '30s, and the novel-within-the-novel The Blind Assassin - piece together the lives of Iris Chase and her sister Laura, the daughters of a successful businessman in Ontario, whose lives were shaped by the Great War, the Depression, and the rumblings of communist and fascist discontent.
Little_Girl_Blue on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Too good for words. See for yourself.
daizylee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book that converted me to Atwood.
suejonesjohnson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
tour de force from a favorite author
redpandabear on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book took a long time to get into, and while the premise was interesting, it felt like the whole time I was waiting for something more to happen. Margaret Atwood is a great author, but I preferred The Handmaid's Tale.
Clara53 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's not enough for a writer to have a good perception of reality. A writer needs to translate the nuances of life and people inhabiting it into a language that will amaze and captivate us. Margaret Atwood is just such a writer. This is a stunning book, confounding in its very concept. A heart rending, bordering on harrowing story, but as sad as it was, I didn't want it to end - such is the power of a truly great writer. The personal drama scans almost a century, but most prominent are the 1930-40 and the modern day (or about 1990s) with a final surprise at the end. Even the episodes of fantasy/science fiction of this book-within-a-book didn't turn me away (though usually I am not a huge fan of this genre). They were put there for a reason.